Following events that happened on May 22nd 2017, thousands of right-wingers have been spotted claiming that mass Muslim Immigration is to blame. At the same time, thousands of left-wingers have also been spotted attacking people who wanted to find the culprit for being racist and islamophobic.
Neither groups seem to particularly care about the details of the event that triggered this mass social media war, since in the eyes of both groups, although for different reasons, that event was only one example of a way bigger problem, which is entirely the other side’s fault for either actively contributing to making those events easy to create, or passively focusing on unrelated groups and doing more harm than good in the big picture.
Yes, that terrorist attack is horrible and sickening. I’m not claiming otherwise, and definitely not saying that it is insignificant or irrelevant. My point is simply that people seem to fall in either those “at-war” groups, or the “I’ll put the attacked country’s flag over my profile picture for a few days or weeks, then act as if nothing happened until next time, but I certainly have no doubts that there will be a next time” group.
Today’s post isn’t about the terrorist attack. It’s something I’ve had in mind for a few weeks, and that attack just gave me a relevant example.
As of today, with that political polarisation so strong even in situations where literally everyone agrees (except for the perpetrators I guess) that what happened was horrible, and everyone quickly runs to their internet echo chamber to hear more about how this is the other side’s fault, I think that’s a very dumb reaction by society. At the same time, I have no idea what we could ever possibly do to prevent those kind of attempts, short of a complete surveillance state and brainwashing of the masses.
But while I despise the current reactions, they are still pretty mild compared to what I expect to see within a few years.
Using Google Analytics on this blog, I literally have access to a ton of data about each and every one of my visitors. Including for most them, hobbies, religion, interests, and political affiliation. Even though this probably isn’t 100% accurate, and I’d say about 70% of users have data for those fields (I guess some browser and Operating Systems are less willing to give all your personal info to random internet blogs than others), that’s still a lot. I’m just a small blog with very little activity, yet I would be able, if I wanted, to make some little functionnality that would slightly tweak the content you see depending on your personal data. You know all those examples I’ve used over the past year, where I explicitly told you to replace the people in the example with politicians or politics you like because that makes the argument seem smarter if you feel like you agree with its author? I would literally be able to do that sneakily, and for example replace the word “Obama” with “Trump” in positive analogies if the reader leans right-wing, and vice versa.
Nowadays, even “real” news outlets are obviously biased. Even people who agree with them usually recognize that their news are biased, even if not everyone agrees on how good or bad that is. I assume that those outlets usually tend towards the political base they feel is the biggest, since their goal is to make money. While some individual journalists may be biased, and may gravitate toward media companies that they feel agrees with them, I’m pretty sure the overall company strategy strongly relies on their expectations as to how many people would agree with a left or right-wing bias.
I fear the day those same companies finally figure out they can do that and appeal to both sides. Of course “real” news couldn’t be tweaked that way. I couldn’t switch Arianna Grande’s name for another artist in reports of the attack if I know you hate her, and I want to make you hate muslims more. But Bias is usually not literal like that. It would show up when using examples, comparisons, slippery slopes, etc. That would not only be a lot less obvious, but would be totally legal. They already choose analogies to appeal to a certain group, so why not to both?
And as we all know, when something like that happens and goes by either unnoticed or unchallenged, it will usually progressively get worse at a pace slow enough to keep being unchallenged, but fast enough to become a huge problem quickly.
Also, we’re already all hiding in our echo chambers. How often will you make your opponent proof-read your morning news to see discrepancies?